After seeing the trailer for Michael Shumway’s Alienate, I was totally on board! It looked to be a cheesy, action-packed alien invasion film. I was all set to enjoy this on a “so bad it’s good” level. Did I get the experience I was hoping for? Read on to find out.
Directed by Michael Shumway (The Edison Effect) and written by Rick Hansberry (Chasing Forever) with creature effects by Chris Hanson (Make-up department on Hellboy), Alienate stars Blake Webb (Criminal Minds) as David Madison, Tatum Langton (Love Sick) as Amy Madison, and Jaclyn Hales (Unicorn City) as Samantha Hayes.
On his way home from Dallas, David (Webb) hears some startling news about airplanes crashing all over the world. In an effort to get back home to check on his wife, Amy (Langton), he soon realizes that the military have blocked off the major roads and won’t let anyone pass. He realizes that getting home is going to be more difficult than he expected, as he encounters people wandering about aimlessly in a stupor, as well as blue lights in the sky. He eventually comes to a group of people and, with the help of a woman he met on the road (Hales), realizes that this is an alien invasion.
The premise to this story sounds like your typical sci-fi movie and, as I said earlier, I was all in. Unfortunately, that is not at all what I got from Alienate. The story is told through a myriad of flashbacks that bounce between past and present, but it’s done in such a confusing way that I had no idea where I was in the timeline while watching this. It felt haphazardly edited together, to the point where it would go from one scene with David to another but it still looked like the exact same scene. Plus the flashbacks really had no reason for being in the story. They could have easily exposited in the beginning. There was no payoff whatsoever in doing it the way that they did.
Speaking of the story, it was a chore to get through. I was going into this expecting an alien invasion film, but instead got a character drama. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, mind you. I enjoy character driven stories. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing to keep me invested in the story or the characters, which is not a good sign when dealing with a drama. I was bored to the point of almost zoning out completely. The characters in Alienate are unlikable and the acting is wooden, especially from Blake Webb’s character, David, who seemed completely disinterested. When you’re telling a dramatic story that focuses mainly on one character, that character needs to be believable and he did not.
Not only was the story a mess and the characters unlikable, but the aliens themselves looked like something you would buy from a Halloween store. The few scenes where they were hidden in darkness actually didn’t look that bad, but the director made the mistake of showing these creatures off in broad daylight and they looked terrible. I understand that budget was a key factor in this, but there are many ways to make your effects look better than they are in Alienate with the right lighting. If all of the above-stated issues were done right, this could have been a decent film, but unfortunately, that is not the case. If you are looking for a cheesy sci-fi action film, you might want to look somewhere else or if this sounds like something you’re into you can find it in selected theaters and VOD starting today (May 5th)!